Deadlands--Follow the Walkin' Man
A wealthy cattleman and rancher, who helped to found Amarillo.
Goodnight was born in Macoupin County, Illinois, east of St. Louis, Missouri, the fourth child of Charles Goodnight and the former Charlotte Collier. (Goodnight’s father’s grave is located in a pasture located south of Bunker Hill, Illinois.)
Goodnight moved to Texas in 1846 with his mother and stepfather, Hiram Daugherty. In 1856, he became a cowboy and served with the local militia, fighting against Comanche raiders. A year later, in 1857, Goodnight joined the Texas Rangers. Goodnight is also known for guiding Texas Rangers to the Indian camp where Cynthia Ann Parker was recaptured, and for later making a treaty with her son, Quanah Parker.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the Confederacy and was honorably discharged in 1868.
Following the war, he became involved in the herding of feral Texas Longhorn cattle northward from West Texas to railroads. This “making the gather” was a near state-wide round-up of cattle that had roamed free during the four long years of war. In 1866, he and Oliver Loving drove their first herd of cattle northward along what would become known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Goodnight invented the chuckwagon, which was first used on the initial cattle drive. Upon arriving in New Mexico, they formed a partnership with New Mexico cattleman John Chisum for future contracts to supply the United States Army with cattle. After Loving’s death, Goodnight and Chisum extended the trail from New Mexico to Colorado, and eventually to Wyoming. Goodnight is reported to have kept a photograph of Oliver Loving in his pocket for a long time after his death. As requested by the dying Loving, Goodnight carried the body from New Mexico to Weatherford, the seat of Parker County, Texas, for burial.
In order to take advantage of available grass, timber, water, and game, he founded in 1876 what was to become the first Texas Panhandle ranch, the JA Ranch, in the Palo Duro Canyon of the south Texas Panhandle. He partnered with the Irish businessman John George Adair to create the JA, which stands for “John Adair”. This ranch became one of the central work environments for the boomtown that later became Amarillo. After Adair’s death, Goodnight worked in partnership for a time with Adair’s widow Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie Adair as well as with Cajun investor Saebre Shadowblood.